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Does Sidney Crosby need a year off?

I know precious little about Sidney Crosby’s much-discussed recovery, but I know this:  he’s a wonderful hockey player and we would all love to see him play when he is healthy enough to do so.

That said, no one in hockey is irreplaceable.  No one will be the same as Crosby, of course, but that doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be “replaced” in the minds of hockey fans over time.

I don’t say this in a cavalier fashion, not at all.  I love watch Sid play—who doesn’t?  The guy is not only one of the most skilled players in recent memory, he brings passion, on-ice vision and a work ethic that few other players can match.

It’s just that, unfortunate as the status of his health seems to be, hockey always survives.  When I was just a small child, people wondered how hockey would do when “the Rocket”, Maurice Richard, retired in 1960.  Richard (see the great old late 1950s picture at left) was the fiery, intense, bug-eyed winger who scored more goals than anyone in history to that point.  He was the “man” in the playoffs and the face of the Montreal Canadiens.  In the province of Quebec, he was much more than that.

But the game survived.

Another example?  I’ve never seen a player like Bobby Hull in his prime in the 1960s—the rare combination of raw power, explosive skating ability and the game’s biggest and most powerful slapshot.

Yet, others filled the void he left in 1980.

And there’s certainly never been a replacement, to this day in my mind, for Bobby Orr, who retired far too young because of bad knees in the late 1970s.

The same with Gretzky, Lemieux—all the greats.  No one has been “like” them, but the game survives.

If Crosby can’t play again, Ovechkin simply steps into his role.  Or Stamkos.  Or some other remarkably talented young player.  It’s the cycle of sports—and life.

All this said, what I’m really getting at, and hoping, is that Crosby (if he returns) only returns when he is absolutely, 100% as healthy as he can be.  Not that I think doctors and team officials would ever let him return “too soon”.  But we all know the pressure that athletes face to get back into action.  They want it.  Their teammates want it.  The organization wants it.  And so do fans.

I guess what’s concerning me is, why do we care when, as long as he actually can come back?  What’s the big deal about being ready for training camp, or the first game of the season?  I mean, it’s an 82-game season that lasts 7 months to begin with. Why does he have to play right off the bat this fall?

As far as I’m concerned, and again, I enjoy watching Crosby as much as anyone, he could miss an entire season if that’s what’s needed to ensure the guy is a healthy as he can be in hockey, and beyond.

We all know that if he comes back now, it will be like a NASCAR race.  People will be holding their breath, waiting for the next big crash.  Everyone will be worried that the “next one” won’t be the phrase used to describe the next young phenom that will take the hockey world by storm, but rather the next time Crosby is decked and suffers another serious concussion.

He’s had an amazing career already.  The Penguins have won their Cup.  The fans had their parade and still love the young Penguin team.  They, the league—and the rest of us—could afford to wait out a season.

Or longer.

1 comment:

  1. You're comparing Crosby leaving today with older players retiring once they had long been superseded by younger stars. Neither Richard in '60 or Hull in '80 were regarded as the most important players in the game at the time.
    What's more worrying is the thought of going through another 99-2004, which should have been Eric Lindros' prime, but was instead dominated by less memorable names like Markus Naslund (Jagr didn't help matters with his indifferent play in Washington, and you could also mention Kariya/Forsberg's injuries, Sellanne's mid-career swoon...ugh).